As consumer buying behavior has shifted online, Destination marketers have had to adjust their strategies beyond the printed travel guides, brochures and information centre’s of the past, to provide perspective visitors engaging content such as; video’s and social media communities in order to entice consumers to visit.
The website has become the visitor centre.
From our work with DMOs, PMOs, RTOs and visitor bureaus, we along with Miles, our partners in this research project, know that DMOs small and large continue to be challenged in understanding how to adjust their dollars according to changes in consumer usage of the web.
In developing the Canadian DMO online benchmarking report, we had a goal to help improve the online performance, and build stakeholder confidence in DMO marketing programs. As travel consumers continue to evolve in usage of digital and mobile platforms, Destination marketers need to understand how to adjust their marketing dollars accordingly.
We had an overwhelming response to the initiative with 16 participating DMOs from across Canada including:
Using Google analytics, and a defined set of key performance indicators, it was our intention to benchmark the online performance of leading DMOs, PMOs and CVBs from across Canada, and compare them to themselves, and against International destinations including New Zealand and the US.
Some of the key performance indicators used in the pilot study included:
- Website performance in terms of overall traffic
- Traffic by major domestic and international markets
- Sources of traffic
- Key engagement metrics
- Mobile metrics
I am excited to share some of the key findings taken from the aggregated summary report of the pilot study. We measured the pilot sample with analytics from the 2011 Calendar year, aggregated the data, and provided each of the 16 participating DMOs with an individual report with recommendations. In addition, we produced an aggregated report summarizing the data for the entire Canadian sample of DMOs measured, and compared them with the data taken from the samples in both New Zealand and US.
The resulting key insights from the pilot program of the Canadian DMO Online Benchmarking Reports include:
1. Trends in new audience growth:
- The overall Canadian online audience growth (in new visitors) is slower than the USA, and New Zealand. Are Canadian DMOs investing as much as international destinations in driving new audiences to their websites?
2. International reach of Canadian Destinations:
- Canadian Destinations have less penetration into foreign markets, including the neighboring US, which provides only around 12% of Canadian DMO website traffic.
- Also consider that major Asian countries such as China and Japan represent only very small percentage of users to the sample (0.14-0.17%), and yet each represent 1-2% of International visitors to Canada.
3. Mobile opportunity:
- Canada is second (8%) only to the USA (15%) in users accessing DMO site via mobile device. This will shift quickly as consumer behavior and use of mobile phones as well as tablets quickly take over.
- DMOs need to be prepared for this shift with mobile friendly websites and content.
The pilot study clearly pointed to the need for mobile friendly websites (at the very least a more streamlined HTML 5 version of the primary website), with a consumer base that will be increasingly mobile connected, not only during the research phase of travel, but while in-destination as well.
4. Managing beyond the click: Measuring both quantity and quality
- Canadian DMOs sampled had a slightly higher Bounce Rate (49%) than the sample from both the US, and New Zealand (47%), but all are higher than what is standard for a DMO website that is delivering content that is engaging to visitors. It is not all about the number of unique visitors to the site, but also about how long they stay, and how deep they go into the content.
- DMO websites should strive for around a 40% overall bounce Rate, 30% Home page bounce rate, 4:00 min time on site, and 5-pages per visit as a standard. More engaging content will help to improve these metrics.
5. Measure and adjust:
- Canadian DMOs are not utilizing Google Analytics (a free and mass adopted standard in web analytics, which now offers social metrics) to track the success of specific marketing initiatives such as eblasts, SEO, and Paid Search marketing campaigns.
- The DMO benchmarking study utilized Google analytics as the primary point of measurement.
Destination marketing organizations require a high level reporting to stakeholders and members, and should ensure proper use of Google analytics conversion and goal tracking (or other analytics tools in combination), to better analyze and report on campaign performance, and key performance indicators over time.
The data collected from the report provides a measure of trends over time and gives early warnings of opportunities or shifts in strategy that should be considered for destination marketers. We are excited after an extremely successful pilot program, and with the endorsement of the Canadian Tourism Commission to announce the launch of the 2012/2013 series of reports.
We are calling now to Canadian DMOs, PMOs, RTOs and CVBs to participate in the 2012/2013 report series, and thank the initial 16 destination marketing organizations who participated in the pilot program.
About the Canadian DMO online benchmarking study:
As both A Couple of Chicks eMarketing and Miles Partnership specialize in destination marketing online, and continue to work with marketers to illustrate the importance of online positioning for DMOs, we collectively were very passionate about providing the industry with a standard in statistical measurement in order to help to support DMOs in getting buy-in from stakeholders, and to help to improve efficiencies and better educate marketers about the digital space.
Why benchmark online success for Destination Marketing?
1. To track Canadian destinations against key online performance measures. (to determine ROI in digital marketing initiatives), engage stakeholder support, and improve performance over time.
2. Provide benchmarking metrics amongst DMO peers – against themselves, and international DMOs to better understand where they fit in comparison to their peers.
3. To provide insight into trends and opportunities for improvement. The online space is fast evolving and new media has changed the way consumers research and book travel. DMOs must keep up with the pace of change, and to continue to evolve with the new consumer.
4. The data provides a measure of trends over time and gives early warnings of opportunities or shifts in strategy that should be considered for destination marketers.
Thank you again to the 16 pilot project participants!